Savoring the Second Half of Life
But peer groups are the heart of TTN—members’ regular source of warmth, intellectual stimulation, and support. There are 60-odd discussion and special-interest groups in the New York chapter; each has sprung up because someone has an interest or issue she wants to share with compatible women. (Above, members of the In Focus digital-photography group on a shooting trip to the High Line. Photo by Eleanor Foa.)
Members’ enthusiasms range widely: The special-interest groups include (among many others) meetings devoted to poker-playing, doing improv, navigating the single life, sharing a love of classical music, harmonizing on Broadway songs, travel, exploring New York City, and advocating for abused women. The general interest discussion groups, composed of 8 to 12 women, meet monthly, usually in one another’s apartments, for wine, snacks, and the chance for thoughtful reflection on a topic chosen the month before. Sometimes the theme is lighthearted (“sharing our passions”), sometimes it’s serious (“ageism,” “the road not taken,” “dealing with our partners’ transitions”).
These are not therapy groups or griping sessions, “but they do raise consciousness,” says Kreaden, who, in the course of her seven years as a “full-time volunteer” for TTN, has sparked the creation of many of its peer groups—and the chapters in other regions. “The key thing is that you’ll meet women you would not normally meet, and these women are active and engaged. All of them are thinking about how to live their lives differently. You relate to these women in a different way than you do when you’re hanging out with your best friends. Being with these women meets our intellectual needs.”
And our social needs as well. Anita Jaffe’s peer group, The Visionaries, just celebrated its fifth anniversary. Why did they bond, this professionally diverse group consisting of a nursery-school director, an events planner, a speech therapist, a corporate-marketing researcher, a computer-systems consultant, a fine-arts dealer, a law-firm administrator, a patient-advocacy director, and a newspaper reporter? Jaffe explains why in the New York City chapter’s newsletter. One pleasurable ingredient was the outings her group has taken: “That went a long way toward solidifying our friendships,” she writes. “Over the years, we’ve been to the New York and Staten Island Botanical Gardens, Storm King Mountain, the Grounds for Sculpture, the Philip Johnson Glass House, and Wave Hill. We went by car, by train, or by bus, and laughed, picnicked, took photos, and enjoyed each other's company immensely.”
“People who have retired and are moving into TTN for that reason are coming through one doorway,” says a widow who cherishes her privacy and did not want her name mentioned. “But the doorway for someone who has been married and widowed is a little different.” TTN helped her “orb back into life” after her husband’s death—and “one of the most exciting things about it, for me, was establishing new relationships with people who had such diverse backgrounds. All of us tend to socialize with people in our own profession. In fact, I had never met a writer before I joined TTN.” She also values the easy sense of connection members feel at a gathering where everybody understands their allusions. “I enjoy being with younger people,” she says, “but it’s nice to mention a record or a movie and not have to explain what it is.”
Deborah Harkins, an editor at Women's Voices for Change, was an assigning editor at New York magazine for more than 20 years, the articles editor of The Modern Estate, a columnist for The New York Daily News, and associate editor at NYCitywoman.com.